A print fail and what I learnt and gained from it

A while back I ordered a couple of prints of my Golden Pelican artwork but I have to say that for the first time ever I was pretty disappointed with the outcome. The colours were duller and darker than the original. Probably a combination of my photo editing (should have made sure that it was brighter) and the paper which absorbed the inks in a particular way.

As I was going to anyway, I thought embellishing them would improve on them but I ended up doing so much more embellishing than planned that I thought I might as well have painted them from scratch! Regardless that these were to go to family who had requested them I just couldn’t send them as is. I wanted to get as near as possible to the original both in colour and impact. I’m a bit of a perfectionist in that way!

I must admit that the dreaded imposter syndrome reared it’s ugly head telling me I’m an utter failure and shouldn’t be doing this but after I had a good mope, I had a rest, pulled my socks up again and got to work.

And so I began painting not one but two golden pelicans on fine art paper. This is something I had actually been meaning to try so I used the experience as an exploration and experiment. I had two sheets of Arches cold press watercolour paper on hand and decided to use those. They took me a while to finish as I was also working on a commission (which I will share at a later date) but the fact that I was working on two different projects (three if you consider I was creating two reproductions) was another valuable lesson for me. My art on wood can take me anywhere from 3-6 weeks to finish so having something else to work on when I get tired or stuck with one piece is nice. Having something else to switch to keeps me interested and inspired.

And now I must say I am thrilled with the result and upon writing this they are on their way to their new homes and I can’t wait to see them in place! 

This whole experience made me rethink the whole idea of prints. Getting good quality images of these large mixed media artworks I create is a challenge and scanning is super expensive. However it is much easier for me to get good quality images of the artworks on paper and offer those as smaller prints and cards providing more pricing options. 

The most important lesson in all this, however, was that what at first was a hugely disappointing failure making me feel useless and stupid turned out to be a great success and learning experience. 

I have not mentioned the print lab as generally I have been very pleased with my prints, both for my artwork and photography, and are considered to be one of the best labs in Athens. What disappointed me in particular this time was not so much the prints that were ‘off’, which to some extent was also my fault, but in their lack of and refusal to offer test prints from the outset (I had asked them this on previous occasions and they had refused) and that they did not make a point of mentioning I use the recommended colour profile when editing. As they were pretty expensive and I am a regular customer, it would have been nice of them to offer some kind of discount in a follow-up print.

C’ est la vie, as they say! Some of the best lessons in life are the hardest and sometimes expensive.

What I have learnt and what I recommend you do when ordering prints of your artwork or photography:

  1. Ask if the print lab does a test print before you print out
  2. As professionals they should be able to recommend the best paper for your particular art or photography.
  3. Ask the lab for the recommended colour profile for editing if you are doing this yourself. This depends on the paper as well as the inks/printing method.
  4. Make sure your monitor is calibrated.

What this means for me and print offerings:

  1. From now on, unless I am able to get my art on wood professionally scanned, which is very expensive, I will NOT be offering prints of my art on wood. This will make these pieces more exclusive and valuable.
  2. For certain artworks on wood I will be able to offer original hand painted reproductions on paper at a smaller scale, and of course price, when requested.
  3. I am more likely to offer prints of the hand painted reproductions on paper, which are easier to scan.

Have you got any printing experiences, good or bad, to share? I’d love to hear from you!

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